Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Were you FIRED?

For the last couple of weeks, there have been two invitations sitting on the island in my kitchen; one is for a wonderful wedding of a former student at the end of the month, and the other for a 90th birthday celebration for my first cousin, once removed.  I've spent the last two weeks in limbo.  Mental limbo, not knowing whether I'll be able to ride in a car with my eyes open, to attend either one of these events, both of which are very important to me.

If you've never been the recipient of a blow to the head that resulted in such uncertainty, and the diagnosis of a concussion, you probably don't understand the turmoil that has been occurring in my brain - wanting to deal with "the pile" on the counter, and feel normal again.  Today I was labelled 80% normal.  Great, a B-.  Not the usual standard I hold for my academic self, but definitely better than the failing grade of two weeks ago.

So I made a phone call to 2nd cousin, Emily, whose mother is turning 90 this month.

"It's the middle of the day.  Why aren't you at school?  Were you FIRED?"

Thanks, Em, for the incredible vote of confidence in my teaching abilities.  "No, not fired, just resting, blah blah blah, pudding, lunch duty, " etc.  We'll connect again in a few months, but I know that 10 days from now my brain will not be firing at the rates necessary to follow the fast-witted banter of my very humorous family as they celebrate 90 Years of Doris.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that 1.6 - 3.8 million concussions occur each year in the U.S.  My 3 lb (approximate size) brain hit two sides of my skull, in a traditional contrecoup concussion, and that females are twice as likely to be concussed as men.  Teachers are directed to Reduce Cognitive demands, Educate themselves about concussions, Accommodate the concussed, and Pace the demands for the concussed to allow for full reentry.  Yes, I'm REAPing the benefits of my first-hand experience.

In the last seventeen years, I have received more than a dozen notifications of students recovering from concussions, while assigned to learn in my classroom.  I've been sympathetic, in a maternal, concerned, way.  The Banana Pudding Incident of 2015 has offered an additional, first-hand perspective, that has changed my understanding in a most personal way.

So here's the plan:  Next week, I get to go back to school -- if the stars align, and I hit the B+ range of normality.  I'm starting to read books, five pages or so at a time, and spend a little bit of time online.  Scrolling on the computer and watching HDTV is brutal, and high-pitched instruments and clinking plates and glassware are still awful to listen to.  My brain has taught me to slow down, and not think for a bit.  I'm going back -- partial days at first.

And I've learned a whole lot about anti-metacognition in the process.  (That's the idea of intentionally not thinking about thinking.)   And no Emily, I'm not fired.  They're going to reactivate my badge and let me back in the classroom, probably with raised eyebrows as they watch my non-traditional teaching practices, green chairs, and dark glasses on my face.

And I'll hold a whole lot of sympathy for any concussed kid who stumbles into my classroom, with a hoodie half over his or her eyes after colliding with a ball, a helmet, or banana pudding.